Perhaps it is no coincidence that the last three football teams alive from the CBBN 3A are the only three with running backs over 1,000 yards rushing.
All three teams likely will need big performances today from their go-to guys to keep their seasons running, though only two can advance.
When Southridge and 10th-ranked Kennewick square off at noon at Lampson Stadium and Kamia-kin follows with Seattle Prep at 3 p.m., the running game -- getting yours started and stopping theirs -- will be crucial.
Southridge's Chris Haueter (1,083 yards, 11 TDs; 1,484 all-purpose yards) could go a long way toward helping in helping contain Kennewick's Grant Woods (1,267 yards, 15 TDs; 1,617 all-purpose), in part because Haueter also plays linebacker, but also because a successful Suns rushing attack could keep the Lions offense on the sideline.
Southridge generated just 50 yards on the ground when the two teams met three weeks ago -- a 35-7 Kennewick win. Just as big a concern for Suns coach Tony Reiboldt is cutting down on mistakes.
"Their guys up front, they're pretty good," Reiboldt said. "And they didn't make a mistake. They played a perfect game -- no penalties" and one meaningless interception late.
The Suns will be hamstrung for the second straight game, missing two-way injured starters Dylan Maurer (tackle and linebacker) and Sam Barnes (center, defensive line). Standout sophomore defensive tackle filled in at OT last week in a thrilling 31-27 road win over University, while tight end Garrett Willard moved to center.
"Coach (Jordan) DeVoir, our offensive coordinator, he took advantage of the strengths we have in light of the injuries," Reiboldt said. "We still had to play a football game, and the kids who stepped in for them have done a good job."
For Kennewick, the story all year has been defense -- tops in the league in yards allowed (182.3) and points (5.6) per game, with four shutouts and only two games giving up more than a touchdown.
The Lions picked off league passing leader Matt Mendenhall twice in the first game, and they kept dynamic receiver Josh Richards from making any big plays, though Paul Hamada had a nice day with five catches for 114 yards.
One of the keys for the steady-Eddie Lions will be keeping their cool. It is just the second time in 18 seasons Kennewick has reached state, and the first since 2007.
"They were eighth-graders the last time we went to state," said Lions coach Bill Templeton. "We're a senior dominated team, and they're pretty mature, smart kids. But they're still 17, 18 years old. They get caught up in emotions. But we still expect them to play well and under control."
For No. 4 Kamiakin, Zach Umemoto (1,173 yards, 14 TDs) will be the key to taking some of the pressure off sophomore quarterback Kylle Robertson, filling in for injured senior Jason Hutchison (dislocated finger on throwing hand) against No. 8 Seattle Prep.
Braves coach Scott Biglin said Robertson is ready to handle the full playbook, but life will be a lot easier for the first-time starter if he doesn't have to face a lot of "and-long" passing downs.
"Any guy -- even with Jason playing that's what we want," Biglin said. "Our game plan hasn't changed. We'll play the same way as when Jason is there. We'll stay balanced, just like we have been all year. And if it comes down to Kylle making a throw, we have a lot of faith."
Hutchison -- who will be an emergency backup today and could return next week -- has been incredibly effective with 21 TDs against 2 INTs. Robertson has completed 7 of 18 throws this season for 71 yards, a touchdown and two picks.
While the Braves are playoff veterans -- many players started on last year's state runner-up squad -- Seattle Prep is making its first playoff appearance since 1991.
"I think the kids feel they can be competitive," said Panthers fourth-year coach D.R. Clawson, whose team finished inches short of knocking off No. 3 O'Dea 21-20. "Hey, lets go out and play football and not get too wound up where we're playing. Lets have some fun, play our game and see what happens."
Prep certainly will need a big day on the ground. Ter Calloway and Charlie Brennan have combined for 1,802 yards and 27 touchdowns, while quarterback Jackson Clough has throw for just 595 yards.
"They're a physical team," Biglin said. "They'll grind it out on you. Offensively, they control the clock and run the ball. That's their main objective, and they do a really good job of that.
"Defensively, they're quick. They're kind of like us on defense -- they come after you a little bit. They play real good football."